We had a most successful visit to the Fyffes banana ripening centre at Basingstoke. This Centre is one of five in this Country. The Fyffe family originally came from Scotland and the Company will be 130 years old on 20th September, making them the oldest banana company.

Did you know that there are eighty types of banana? Fyffes most popular type is the “Dwarf Cavendish”. Apparently, bananas are “giant herbs”! Every plant has a single stem and each stem takes 13 months to grow. This is then chopped to the ground, the bananas are recovered, and a new plant is left to develop another stem. This can happen up to five times, before the plant is spent. The journey to this Country takes two weeks. The green fruit arrives in containers at either Tilbury or Portsmouth and is transported to a ripening centre. The banana goes through eight colour changes through green and yellow, to brown, and each supermarket specifies which colour of yellow it requires.

We were shown round the huge ripening rooms, fifty six in all, and were able to watch the inspection and the bagging up of the fruit. Who knew that the green banana was so hard that it could be snapped in two? Who knew that when green, between this fruit and its skin, there is a visible latex layer which is very difficult to remove if you come into contact with it? Fyffes was the first company to put sticky labels on their fruit. It was interesting to learn that all the supermarkets send their own lorries to collect the bananas from the centre. Once in the shop, the bananas have a two day life span.

Fyffes, who also deal with melons and pineapples, have just been taken over by a Japanese company, so there are changes taking place.

We are most grateful to the three people from Fyffes who gave us a most professional, informative and interesting visit.